The Sacramento Kings are loaded with power forward depth going into the 2013-2014 NBA season, but Patrick Patterson is the most important of the bunch. Jason Thompson may have been their starting power forward through much of last season, Carl Landry might be the big free-agent acquisition and Chuck Hayes may be the most respected in the locker room, but Patterson's ability to spread the floor creates open shots for both him and his teammates.
Patterson is the reason the Kings' offense was so potent in the second half of the season -- Sacramento had the league's seventh-best offense after the All-Star break despite the presence of many shoot-first players, according to NBA.com.
Patterson's shooting range allows him to find open shots on the perimeter, but the threat of his long-range game also helps his teammates. The Kings averaged over 108 points per 100 possessions while Patterson was on the floor, per NBA.com. When Thompson was on the floor, they only averaged 103.5 points per 100 possessions. When Hayes was on the court, that mark sunk further to 102.3 points per 100 possessions. Hayes and Thompson only attempted two three-point field goals combined the entire season and did not connect on either. Patterson, meanwhile, was a 44 percent three-point shooter with the Kings.
He has no trouble finding open shots. Here, DeMarcus Cousins sets a screen for Travis Outlaw. Patterson is fading to the corner while Blake Griffin, the help defender, turns his attention to the pick-and-roll:
Cousins rolls to the basket and Griffin rotates in front of him. DeAndre Jordan helps Jamal Crawford contain Outlaw. But that leaves Patterson open in the corner.
Griffin attempts to recover, but he's too late to alter the shot and Patterson drains the three. Patterson's ability to hit the corner three increases the Kings' options on offense and can make defenses pay when the weakside defender has to help, as Griffin did here:
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Patterson stretching the floor as a corner spot-up shooter is one important utility he brings to the Kings' offense, but he was also a 49 percent jump shooter from inside the arc. Thirty-seven percent of Patterson's field goal attempts were from 10-23 feet, where he flourished as a pick-and-pop player.
Here, the Kings run a play from the 'horns' set (a common alignment explained here) with a Patterson-Cousins frontcourt. Patterson sets a high ball screen for Toney Douglas:
Chris Paul goes under the screen and Griffin helps over the top. Patterson pops to the perimeter instead of rolling to the paint and into the defense. Matt Barnes reads the play and tries to close out on Patterson, but he's too late.
This is Patterson's shot.
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Here's two minutes worth of Patterson picking-and-popping defenses apart:
Patterson can also catch the defense off-guard, as he does to Kenneth Faried below. The success the Kings have with Patterson in pick-and-pop plays, and the amount of times they use him to set high screens, make a simple slip-screen and cut to the basket a deadly alternative:
Patterson and newcomer Greivis Vasquez are a particularly good match. Vasquez was acquired by the Kings this summer after assisting on 44 percent of his team's field goals while on the floor with the Hornets last season, per Basketball Reference. Seventy-eight percent of Patterson's field goals were assisted, including all 51 of the three-point field goals, per NBA.com's media stats page. Vasquez should have a primary target in Patterson.
It's the effect that Patterson's shooting has on the rest of the Kings' offense, though, that is most important. Patterson averaged just seven field goals per game, second-lowest of any player who averaged a minimum of 20 minutes per game. Only 15.4 percent of the Kings' plays ended with him putting up a shot, but teams worry about him burning them from the perimeter, which opens lanes for other players.
Below, Patterson sets a screen for Isaiah Thomas and pops to the perimeter. Thomas drives into the paint instead of passing to Patterson. Nikola Pekovic is the weak-side help defender and Cousins is his man-to-man defensive assignment:
Watch Derrick Williams as this play continues. Rather than rotating to help J.J. Barea in the pick-and-roll over the top, he stays with Patterson to defend him on the perimeter. This forces Pekovic to cut off Thomas in front of the rim, leaving Cousins with a clear lane to the basket. Cousins cuts and Thomas passes to him:
Cousins finishes the play with an easy dunk before a Timberwolves defender can help at the rim:
Video of the play:
The threat of Patterson's perimeter game also opens the floor in transition. Here, Tyreke Evans handles the ball. Patterson is streaking to the corner and Dwight Howard is tracking him:
Howard keeps his attention on Patterson as Evans handles the ball on fast break. Evans takes advantage of Howard's diverted attention and streaks to the rim behind him. By the time Howard acknowledges Evans is driving straight to the basket, he's too late and can't contest the shot:
Video of the play:
Patrick Patterson is a floor spacer that is still growing as an NBA player. He has just three years of NBA experience, but has the maturity to play to his strengths. He's almost exclusively a pick-and-pop and spot-up player. He doesn't attempt field goals out of his comfort zone and is an efficient offensive role player.
Most importantly, he provides a skill -- perimeter shooting out to the three-point line -- that the group of Kings frontcourt players otherwise lack. This opens up the Kings half-court offense as well as transition opportunities, making him a valuable player. Sounds like someone Patterson's old team, the Houston Rockets, could use.